How to Write a Perfect Personal Statement

Updated: Aug 6

It's time for that question again, 'tell me about yourself'? Many shrivel away and draw a blank, others go in to overdrive and don't really get their point across. Writing a Personal Statement is difficult, but it can be enjoyable if you are genuine and concise. They are however, crucial for your university/recruitment application and you won't progress without one!



This might be your first time writing a personal statement, no worries, it's actually a fantastic opportunity to determine whether you're doing the right thing or not.


Everybody is unique, and that's one of the arguments for personal statements, you can imagine the amount of Curriculum Vitae's (CV's) that arrive in an institution's mailbox - what sets them apart?


Well, the quality of the CV is important, of course, but you need something else to be used as a contrasting factor, and for this, they use the personal statement.



If you want to divide the purpose of these two documents, the CV concerns your skillset and qualification while the personal statement concerns your intention and conviction.


As a university admissions officer or employer, knowing both sides of the coin is crucial to bringing on the students with the most potential.


Writing a personal statement should make you feel something as you write it, as you put pen to paper (or text to screen) a jolt of ambition might surface and that's for sure a good thing!





Why Write a Personal Statement?


I've eluded to this in the intro, but personal statements are used as something known as a contrasting factor.


These are things that are used to determine the best applicants, from either a recruitment pool that is too large for the number of positions, or just for the purpose of narrowing down the right person for the opportunity.


But from your perspective, the reason you should write a personal statement is because you want to convey your suitability for the opportunity and demonstrate your conviction in a consumable way.



Your aim here is to have the reader 'feel' something as they learn about you, you then want them to combine that feeling with your qualification and skillset and determine that "I think this person will do great here".


This also helps employers/admissions officers get around the trap of recruiting someone 'who's good on paper', by which I mean they have good grades, but their emotional intelligence isn't perhaps on the same level.


And again, we can separate these two documents into the conveyance of intellectual intelligence (found in the CV) and emotional intelligence (found in the personal statement)



So, if you feel as if your qualifications and grades are sub par, then this is your opportunity to grab their attention, because it's the bigger picture that matters to the admissions/hiring staff.


They do pay attention to both sides of the coin, and even if the qualifications aren't quite meeting the mark, there's still a good chance you will be accepted if your personal statement is great!


The idea of a personal statement should excite you by providing another opportunity to express yourself, but it's the one thing that many people seem to neglect and give less attention than the CV, unfortunately.




The MACK framework for personal statements PutSimply.co.uk
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How to Format a Personal Statement


Firstly, it's important to note that if you are recommended to write the personal statement in specific kind of way by your potential employer or university, do it like that, regardless of what I'm about to say.


Generally speaking though, personal statements follow a similar trend regardless of what they are for. They are split into 3 paragraphs.

  • Introduction

- Why you've chosen the course?

  • Main Body

- What makes you suitable?

- Examples of skills?

  • Outro

- Why this makes you suitable?

- What can you contribute?



The full personal statement can contain any number of paragraphs and should be no longer than one page.


For this reason, they should be concise and should not repeat the detail that is contained within your CV. For example, you may comment that you performed well in a subject area at school, but you wouldn't' list your grades in your personal statement because they are within your CV.


The personal statement should be written in a way that expands upon most of the points mentioned in your CV + other perspectives you want to share.



As for design, this will depends on where you are applying to. Typically they have a plane background, no border, and are very simple. They can however, be designed in a way that is against the typical format - this will depends on how appropriate it is to go with a more creative design.


Creative design is pretty subjective, but it can be artwork, flashy borders or something else. However the format of the writing still needs to be nice and consumable for the reader, as well as being concise.




The personal statement should contain your name and the title of the course/opportunity you are applying for. It may also need to contain your address (especially if its not on your CV) or other personal details, usually asked for by the employer.



Again, do make sure to check what the institution asks for and include that also.


The look of a personal statement is important, however the contents are of course crucial, and I'm referring to something deeper than the intro, main body and outro formatting.


There's an acronym used by many admissions tutors, known as MACK. This stands for Maturity, Ability, Commitment and Knowledge.



To be seriously considered, you have to satisfy all of these areas, and note how they go further than what grades you got.


They have the acronym in the fore front of their head as they read your personal statement, so it's important to touch on all aspects here.



You want to convey the 'story of you' with all the ambition you have and almost provide an invitation for the reader to come along for the ride (by recruiting you) which allows you to peruse that wider vision, kind of beautiful really.




The Opening Statement - Introduction


"Why do you want to study this subject"?


When you write a CV, a common pointer is that you put your name in big capital letters on the page, or you've been advised to use a page layout that has it's own unique design. Well, we're looking to make that same kind of impact within your personal statement.


But you don't wont be doing that by having your name in big bold letters, you want to use a fantastic opening line or paragraph, an attention grabber, a headliner, a magnet to the readers mind.


To do this, you have to write something genuine and heartfelt - easier said than done, I know.



Encouraging anyone on what to write here is very difficult because everyone will have their own story and motivations to why they are applying, but I can say what not to do.


  • Avoid sounding like a robot - "Ambitious leader wanting to exercise skillset, bleeop, blorp, meep".

  • Avoid an arrogant opener - "I'm the best at.."

  • Don't come across 'overly' excited - "I'M KEEN FOR THIS OPPERRNUNITY BECAUSE..!!!'

  • Avoid sayings that everyone might not understand - "I'm the bee's knees at everything, hire me and bobs you're uncle".


You almost want the opening statement to sound like the first lines of a story, as if it were a book that is trying to grab your attention as soon as possible.


In this section, the admissions staff are looking for the answer to the question "why do you want to study this subject"?


So include things to why you find it interesting, why you're drawn to it, how it has huge relevance in your life and bigger mission etc.




The Story - Main Body


"What have I done that makes me qualified to do this subject?"


Now you might think that if they are asking for proof of qualification, you could just say "look at my CV".


But they want more than that, this is where the MACK acronym becomes even more relevant, so let's break it down. These are just some of the kinds of questions they may ask themselves while reading:



Maturity

  • Are you mature and grounded enough to make good use of the opportunity and benefit the wider world with the knowledge you will learn?

  • Do you have a good and 'mature' awareness of the wider field of the course and world?

  • What problems are you aware of and are your solutions reasonable?

Ability

  • What things have you done so far that have provide the tools and abilities to do well with the new knowledge you are about to learn?

  • Are you able to think independently and do you have integrity in your chosen field?

Commitment

  • Are your motivations genuine and authentic?

  • Do you have a respectable ethos for why you're getting into the field?

  • Under pressure, would you do the right thing, or the easiest thing?

Knowledge

  • What breadth of experience do you have about the past?

  • What knowledge you have about the future?

  • How have you applied your studies up to now?



With this in mind, be sure to include the skills you have but also how you obtained them and then how you hope to use them in the future to benefit the institution you're applying for and also your wider mission.


Providing that you have hooked their attention in the introduction, the main body provides an opportunity to demonstrate you at your best while the reader is most receptive - so this is a time to show off! But do it humbly.


Include your achievements, the impacts you have made, your ethos, convictions and depth of integrity. Allow the reader to imagine a construct of you as a well rounded person who is convicted with their mind and their heart.




The Purpose - The Outro


"What can I contribute to the course and to the wider institution/mission?'


When someone has a defined purpose for doing something, it's usually a time when they are most authentic and most sincere.


With the outro, you can begin to concentrate on the wider scope of your chosen subject area, you don't nesscasrily have to speak about the course you want to do but instead talk about the wider impact.


As an example, if you're applying for STEM degree (Science, technology, engineering and maths) then you want to demonstrate that you're good at all of the technical stuff but you might want to demonstrate how you will be a leader in applying this information to help the world.



Talk about the societies that you want to join at university and why you can contribute to them, speak of the wider problems in the world that you want to help change.


As with the intro, you want to round off the outro with a decisive ending. An ending that makes them want to learn more about you and conveys that conviction one last time.


This is the time to talk about your wider goals in life, imagine if you've completed the degree/opportunity - what would you do with it!




The Do's and Don'ts


Do's

  • Be clear, get to the point.

  • Set a tone that is positive, inviting and ambitious.

  • Use an relevant evidence and demonstrate it in a concise way.

  • Check spelling and grammar, make sure the whole statement has flow.

  • Pay attention to the look of the document, make sure it's neat and ordered.

  • Add a personal touch, maybe a few!

  • Be self aware while writing.

  • Use different personal statements for different applications (if applicable)]

  • Be relevant.

  • Be appropriate.


Dont's

  • Be indecisive.

  • Add too many examples of one thing, you're limited on space.

  • Be untruthful or exaggerate.

  • Portray a negative tone.

  • Risk it by using jokes.

  • Copy any other personal statement.

  • Complain about things, missed opportunities etc.

  • Come across arrogant or insensitive.




Questions and Answers about a Personal Statement


Q) What tense should my personal statement be in?

A) Any, it totally depends upon the story you want to convey.


Q) How long should it be?

A) A total of one page, keep it concise and make it neat.


Q) How long should I spend on a personal statement?

A) Although it is one page, you should be sure to submit many drafts to your tutor or someone objective who can check it. Upwards of 5 drafts are not uncommon.


Q) Should i use a fancy format?

A) Usually to this the answer is no. Whatever you do, put the format into PDF so it's protected when you send it (unless otherwise instructed)

In some cases, using bespoke formats can confuse the software it's uploaded to and it will deliver your personal statement in a way you didn't expect it to.


Q) How important is my personal statement?

A) Very, it's as significant as your CV. You absolutely need to do it and need to spend meaningful time to create one that accurately represents you.




There we have it, with these parameters and your ambition, you should have a recipe to produce a personal statement that is noticed, remembered....and accepted!


It's important to remember that if you are applying to multiple courses, you should use a different and tailored personal statement each time.


Ultimately, after writing a personal statement and reading 'you' on paper, I hope you get a sense of achievement and a feeling of being proud.




Free Resource Templates


If you're applying to university/work or struggling to study, you may benefit from some of the below freebies:


  • CV's/Resumé Templates

  • Personal Statement Templates

  • Cover Letter Templates

  • Study Schedules/Planner Templates

  • More!

Head over to the FREE Resources page and you can download (to word) any of the templates shown there, new ones are released every so often, tailor them to what you need them for and good luck!


They will show you the structure and formatting of each document, along with suggested design ideas and possible wording techniques, take a look!




Feeling good about yourself conveys confidence and that will resonate with any reader. I wish you all luck in your endeavours and I hope you get the things you want!


If you have any suggestions for opening/closing lines to put in a personal statement, jot them down below in the comments!


Feel free to ask any questions there too.



Thanks for reading

PutSimply.



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